WALNUT CREEK, Calif. March 26, 2018 – California drivers are paying the highest gas prices to begin Spring since 2014, with prices expected to climb even higher as we enter peak driving season this summer.
The state’s average price for unleaded regular gasoline was $3.47 on Monday. With record travel numbers across the U.S. and especially on the West Coast, AAA predicts the average price of gas could rise between $3.60 to $3.80 per gallon in California by Memorial Day. Prices haven’t been this high in the Golden State since 2014, when Californians paid more than $4 from March to August.
Prices were already nearing the $3.60 mark for many Bay Area cities, and across Northern California. In San Francisco, the average price of gasoline was $3.64 in the heart of the city and $3.59 for the broader Metro area, an increase of 14 cents since March 1.
“Demand for gasoline this March was very strong, closer to the demand AAA typically sees during the summer,” said Michael Blasky, spokesman for AAA Northern California. “If demand stays strong, the price of fuel is likely to keep rising.”
Demand for gasoline is being driven by a strong economy and rising consumer confidence, according to AAA. California also increased the gas tax by 12 cents last November.
In addition to heavy travel demand, prices are also rising because it’s refinery maintenance season, where oil refineries typically slow production during the changeover from the winter blend of gasoline to the summer blend of gasoline. Summer gasoline is more refined and better for the environment, but it’s also more expensive, Blasky said.